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N 42° 34′ 56′′, E 130° 32′ 01′′
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View of Korea–Russia Friendship Bridge crossing the Tumen River, with the Sea of Japan at the far end. Located 500 meters downstream from the China–Korea–Russia tripoint and 20 kilometers downstream from Quanhe, which is the easternmost port along the Tumen River, the bridge’s 11-meter clearance complicated the navigation of even small vessels between Chinese river ports and the Sea of Japan.

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The four-lane New Quanhe–Wonjeong Bridge under construction in 2015 beside the old two-lane bridge built by the Japanese in 1936. In the unlikely hope of gaining navigation rights to the last 15 kilometers of the Tumen River in the foreseeable future, China recently pursued a strategy called jiegang chuhai (meaning “to borrow a foreign port and gain access to the sea”). The upgrading of transportation infrastructures, including Quanhe–Wonjeong Bridge, was conditional on the improvement of connections between China’s land-locked Yanbian prefecture and the port of Rason in North Korea.

1800: Since the early 19th century, increasing Russian influence reached the Tumen River region, a strategic location along the ancient maritime route for trade and cultural exchange between China, Korea, and Japan.


1860: After signing the 1858 Treaty of Aigun and 1860 Convention of Peking, Tsarist Russia extended its boundary with Qing China to the Tumen River Estuary, and the last 15 km of the Tumen River became the border between Tsarist Russia and Choson Korea.


1886: In the early 1880s, Qing official Wu Dacheng observed that Russia had illegally extended its territory to approximately 50 km upstream from the river mouth. Following a joint demarcation carried out at Wu’s insistence, a border treaty between Qing China and Russia was signed. The 1886 treaty also affirmed China’s navigation rights along the final stretch of the Tumen River to access the sea.


1894: The First Sino–Japanese War (1894–1895) began from conflicts between China and Japan for supremacy in Korea. By winning the war, Japan secured its interests in Korea and further extended its influence toward Manchuria.


1905: Soon after the Russo–Japanese War, Japan and China signed a treaty recognizing arrangements made in the Treaty of Portsmouth, which formally ended the war. Additionally, Japan required China to open 16 towns and cities in the northeast, including Hunchun, for international trade.


1910: Korea was annexed by the Empire of Japan.


1932: An agreement between Japanese officials from Korea and the officials of the newly established Manchukuo was signed, stipulating the construction of six highway bridges over the Yalu and Tumen Rivers within the next seven years (1932–1939).


1936: The bridge located 36 km upstream from the Tumen River mouth at Quanhe–Wonjeong was completed.


1938: Soviet and Japanese armies fought over the disputed Changkufeng along the Soviet–Manchukuo border. Japan blocked off the Tumen River access route by installing wooden poles in the river after the end of the conflict.


1950: The Soviet Union built a wooden bridge to transport military supplies to support the Korean People’s Army during the Korean War (1950–1953).


1959: The Soviet Union upgraded the wooden bridge crossing the North Korea–Russia border to a railway bridge. Located 500 m downstream from the China–Korea–Russia tripoint, the bridge’s 11-meter clearance effectively blocked shipping access along the final stretch of the Tumen River.


1961: The Sino–North Korean Mutual Aid and Cooperation Friendship Treaty and Sino–North Korean Border Treaty were signed in 1961 and 1962, respectively.


1966: Although China–North Korea relations deteriorated during China’s Cultural Revolution (1966–1976), Quanhe–Wonjeong continued to serve as an important cross-border/river connection in the lower Tumen region, which is predominantly inhabited by ethnic Koreans.


1982: In the 1950s and 1960s, refugees crossed the river into North Korea to escape economic hardships and famine in China. In the late 1970s, the flow of cross-border refugees reversed. A bilateral agreement was reached in late 1981 to close the port and bridge at Quanhe–Wonjeong on January 1.


1991: The Tumen River Area Development Programme (TRADP) was launched by the UNDP as a regional cooperation program.


1995: The initial five member countries signed an agreement on the establishment of the TRADP Consultative Commission. Quanhe–Wonjeong Port was reopened to diplomatic and commodity services in September, and Quanhe–Rajin–Busan intermodal freight transport was launched in November.


2005: The TRADP was renamed the Greater Tumen Initiative. The land route between Quanhe and Rajin Port along North Korea’s coast is crucial to the landlocked Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture of China.


2017: A year after the completion and opening of New Quanhe–Wonjeong Bridge, cross-border trade volume fell as the port city was hit by UN sanctions imposed on North Korea over missile testing in August 2017.

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